One of the tangible things (and there were also a multitude of valuable intangibles) we walked away with from the Value Investing Congress West was a copy of David Einhorn's new book "Fooling Some of the People All of the Time". A long wait at LAX before a Wednesday night redeye back to Philly left plenty of time to crack open Einhorn's 379 page work. Unfortunately, once I started reading, I could not put it down.
Einhorn presents a very detailed account of financial shenanagins happening within Allied Capital (ALD), a midcap darling of the high yielding, rising dividend "subculture". Seems that, among other transgressions, the investment company was very reluctant to mark down securities (primarily debt)on its balance sheet that were impaired. Instead of being marked to market, these were "marked to fantasy".
What you will find within the pages of this book will blow you away. This is a tale of deceit, fraud, misrepresentation, cloak and dagger antics, millions amd millions of wasted taxpayer dollars, and an unbelivable amount of effort expended by Einhorn and others to bring it all to light. Unfortunately a mounting pile of evidence still falls on deaf ears--far longer than you'd imagine in the post-Enron, Sarbanes Oxley world of today.
Einhorn often takes his lumps in the press for being a hedge fund manager and short seller, (which comes with the territory), and he's been short Allied for years. But don't let that cloud your judgement as to his motives for writing this book: all profits from it's sale, as well as any from his Allied short positon are going to charity.
Einhorn's attention to detail is one of the great attributes of this book, plus he's got a great "voice". This book may go down as one of the classic financial forensics books of our time. CFA wannabe's would do themselves a great service by giving it a read--its a great testament to the propensity of many a modern day analyst to stop well short of the in-depth analysis many aspire to provide.
The Allied Capital story is not over yet, but thanks to David Einhorn for having the guts to bring us in on what's transpired to date. Of course Allied Capital will tell you a much different story--I'm waiting for their book.
I've never met David Einhorn, have never spoken with him, just traded a few emails. (we tangled over a piece we published on St. Joe's back in August. Einhorn believed his analysis had been misquoted, and we subsequently published his response). But I could not walk away from this book without believing that Einhorn has a great deal of character. The fact that he's a hedge fund manager, or profits from short sales do not diminish that character.
Disclosure: The author does not have a position in Allied Capital, long or short. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. The author will not trade any of the securities mentioned (buy, sell, short) for at least two weeks following the date of this post.